Sunday, February 9, 2020
When we’re ready for a redeemer, Yahweh goes out before us.
Sunday, February 9, 2020
When we’re ready for a redeemer, Yahweh goes out before us.
THIS BLOG CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER AND HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (ALTHOUGH, YOU SHOULDN’T NEED A SPOILER WARNING FOR A MOVIE NEARLY TEN YEARS OLD).
Last night as I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I realized how Star Wars should have ended!
Every Christmas my wife and I pull out the Harry Potter movies. Since the first couple movies were holiday releases, the familiar John Williams score as the big Warner Brothers logo opens scratches a Christmas itch in my brain.
Last night we finished the series again. As I watched the last hour or so of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I realized this movie was how Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker should have ended.
After almost eight whole movies of getting to know Harry, Hermione, Ron and their world, the final movie culminates in a battle that leaves Hogwarts in rubble and gives Voldemort the upper hand. After retreating, he makes an announcement that no one else has to die if Harry will give himself up. So after learning via memories from Professor Snape, Harry does that very thing.
On the way to the Forbidden Forrest to give himself up, Harry opens the snitch he received from Albus Dumbledore following his death. Inside the snitch, he finds The Resurrection Stone. As he clutches the stone in his hand, the heroes and mentors who have gone before surround him. They tell them they are with him. Then, he lets The Resurrection Stone fall from his hand because it’s done its job. That moment was when the lightbulb went off!
As I watched Harry talk with Serious Black, I realized I was watching the scene from the end of The Rise of Skywalker when Rey heard the voices of all the Jedi. Then, Harry sacrificed himself to defeat Voldemort. That was what Rey did, too. I’m not going to comment on who did it better. That’s not the point. The point is that it’s the same story! But, it’s the same story — not because someone at Lucasfilm stole Rowling’s story — because it’s THE STORY (more or less)!
THE STORY — the metastory — is the one God has been writing for the last four thousand years. After creating the world, watching it fall, rebooting it with Noah and his family (see The Matrix Reloaded for more on that part of the metastory), choosing Abraham and his descendants, giving them a home, watching them turn to idolatry, sending them into exile, giving them a home again and letting them be conquered by the Roman Empire, he sent his only Son to be THE The One.
The night before Jesus sacrificed himself for us to win the victory by receiving the punishment we deserved for our sin, he spent the night in a garden preparing for his sacrifice. He met with his Heavenly Father, not all those who went before him. The Apostle John taught us that there was no one before him (John 1:1). Then, he surrendered himself and died on the cross.
However, just like Harry and Rey, that wasn’t the end of his story. He rose from the grave victorious. He defeated sin and death. Jesus fulfilled the law with his sacrifice. Everyone who trusts in him and his sacrifice for us receives eternal life. Yes, this means life forever, but it also means knowing our Creator and our Savior. This is the metastory that writes all the great stories for us. So, why does this metastory feel so real to us?
The metastory about Jesus is real to us because every one of us has experienced it ourselves. For all of us there has come a moment when we had to give ourselves up. Our sacrifice doesn’t save the world. When we repent of trying to save ourselves and trust in Christ, we die to ourselves join with him in his resurrection. This happens the moment we trust in him, and it happens every day the rest of our lives.
In Luke 9:23, Jesus told us:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
This metastory feels so real to us because it describes the story we faced when we trusted in Jesus as well as every day of our lives. And, we don’t’ just die for ourselves. When we give ourselves up every day, we follow in the footsteps of the faithful before us (Hebrews 12:1). We also die for the people we love most. Our sacrifice shows them our hope is in something bigger than us. Then, we use our words to tell them that something is Jesus!
Sunday, February 2, 2020
Every other deliverer isn’t Jesus.
Recently, a ridiculous dream that convinced me it’s time to give things away. I’m not the kind of guy who reads a lot into dreams. For the most part they are just our brain’s way of dealing with all the ideas and data floating around in our heads. However, this dream had an important message for me.
In my dream our church was doing a musical?!? (Apparently, there were several levels of ridiculous in this dream!) I was directing this musical. I was in the middle of working with individual actors on their parts. (As with most dreams, there was a sense of continuity — I understood why I was directing and what was going on even though I was just dropped into the middle of it.)
The next actor to walk in to work with me was Olivia Wilde!?!
Of course, this made perfect sense in the dream. I took a few minutes to tell her how appreciative I was to be working with her. I began sharing with her my grand vision for that scene…
Then (you guessed it), I woke up!
I would love to have a chance to talk with Olivia Wilde — or just about anybody — about what Jesus has done for us. I could probably do a pretty good job at that. But, of course, I have no business directing her, or any other Hollywood and Broadway star, in a musical!
As I thought about my dream, I realized I have made a habit at our church of doing things I’m not the best at. I’ve been pretty good at a lot of them — sometimes by just working harder. However, if I take myself and others seriously, I’m doing some things that are probably as silly as directing Olivia Wilde.
This afternoon a group of musicians was rehearsing at church for an event we have coming soon. I showed up to see how their rehearsal was going. They played part of one of the songs they are working on. They sounded GREAT!!! I couldn’t have added a thing. When they finished and I told them how impressed I was, I was reminded that I need to find more responsibilities to give away.
This is a big year for our church. We just signed a two-year lease. We want to be ready to find a new home that can really reflect who we are at the end of 2021. If that’s going to happen, it’s time to give things away. I am going to have to give many of my current responsibilities away to people who can do a better job than I can. I think me working harder has accomplished just about as much as it can. Now it’s time to be the body of Christ.
In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul wrote:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (ESV)
The last thing I would ever do is say that anyone at CrossRoads has not pulled their weight. We have one of the most dedicated, hard-working churches around. That’s why our church of about one hundred people on Sunday mornings has touched lives around the world in ways that many churches ten times our size have not. But this year I am working hard to not work so hard because my working hard is holding us back. Instead of working harder, I’m going to follow Paul’s advice and work at getting more people working. And, I’m going to need your help doing that!
As you pray for CrossRoads Church this year, ask God to give us wisdom. We are going to be intentionally deciding what is most important to us as we move forward. Then, we are going to be finding the best ways to involve ALL of us in doing the important things we need to do to bring God’s kingdom.
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Israel needed Jesus to deliver them.
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Yahweh gives us victory, so we can live for His glory.
Sometimes we overcomplicate it, don’t we?
Yes, what we believe is important. Yes, there are distinctives we hold to about God, Jesus, faith, sin and salvation. Sometimes, though, we need to just love somebody and tell them about Jesus. We worked on that yesterday.
What did you do yesterday? Yesterday we loved people. At least we tried. I’m not sure we always get it right.
Yesterday was our third I heart My Neighborhood event. This one was pretty simple. We got together at one of our members’ homes and knocked on doors asking three simple questions:
It’s always interesting to see what kind of response we will get. I’ve noticed that the nicer the house, the more likely the person who answers the door is going to be grumpy. I’ve also noticed that the number of people who answer their doors is inverse to the number of Ring doorbells on a street. And, people over 65 and under 35 are way more likely to answer the door and talk cordially with us. (Gen X-ers, what’s up with us?) And that’s all OK because we really just want to talk with people who want to talk with us. (Life’s just easier when mean people don’t answer their doors.)
What I’ve noticed as we have worked to just love somebody is that one great response makes it worth it! Yesterday, the group I was with got to meet a couple ladies who invited us into their house, talked with us about some needs in their neighborhood and let us pray for them. That was a lot of fun.
The other group met some people who thought it was really interesting that a church was knocking on doors. They found out as they talked with people that there were not many unmet needs in their block because their block takes care of one another! What?!? I want to move to that block! What a great place to live! (If you live in that block, I impressed! Keep it up! And let us know how we can help! We want to support neighbors caring for one another! Seriously, we want to be that kind of neighbor!)
You’ve probably noticed that loving someone always costs us something. Yesterday it cost us about two-and-a-half hours of our Saturday morning. Saturday morning is prime family time. That’s expensive.
Jesus told us that loving people is not cheap. In Luke 10, Jesus sent his followers out to prepare the way for his teaching. When they got back, he listened to their report. Then, he told the story of The Good Samaritan. You are probably familiar with the story, but let me give you a little refresher (You can read it for yourself here.)
Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. (That’s putting it mildly.) A Jewish man was mugged on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. As he laid there on the side of the road, a couple good Jews walked by without helping him. Then, a Samaritan tended to his wounds, put him on the animal he had been riding and took him to the nearest inn to be cared for — in a world without CareNow, inns were the closest thing to urgent care. Then, the Samaritan paid the bill for the man’s stay and medical bill.
To be fair, the Samaritan was not a poor man. He had an animal with him. Feet were the cars of the day, so he probably had some wealth. But, he understood at least part of the purpose for his wealth was to help someone else. And he did. Generously! A lot!
It’s funny. Once you have met a real need in someone’s life, they will let you tell them about Jesus. Of course, you can’t be judgy or fake. You have to continue to love them. (Your love has to be the real thing. They will figure it out if it’s not.)
What do you tell them about Jesus? That’s pretty simple really. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul told us what our message should be:
Even though it’s not a tough message, sometimes it can be hard to share. But, you’ll find it’s a lot easier when you really love the person you are sharing it with (and they know it).
If you live near us and want to make our cities better places to live, you are invited to come love people with us. This time we were just knocking on doors. We often have people doing the work of loving people by doing odd jobs or small construction projects to meet real needs. You are welcome to send me a note and let me know you are interested.
How do you need to just love somebody this week?
Sunday, January 12, 2020
Christ is enough.
One of the questions I like to ask people who believe in Jesus is: “How have you seen the greatness of Christ this week?” How would you answer that question today?
It’s kind of funny really, but a lot of people who believe in Jesus and follow him have a lot of trouble answering that question. This morning at our church we will be taking a look at Joshua 24 together. In Joshua 24, Joshua began by spelling out all the great things God had done for his people. He started with Abraham and his family. He recounted the story of how the great God had chosen him and his descendants. Then, Joshua spelled out the challenges they faced and how God brought them through. (Sometimes, God gave his people’s enemies rest while they continued to struggle. What was he thinking?!?)
Joshua reminded God’s people how God led them to Egypt where they eventually become slaves. Then, he delivered them and gave them their own land. Their enemies couldn’t even curse them. When they tried, God turned the curses into blessings. And, God provided for them. He gave them cities they didn’t have to build and food they didn’t have to plant. Then, Joshua told them they had a decision to make.
Joshua told them to serve the LORD, or decide who they were going to serve. The problem we all face is that Christ is never the god we choose.
In Dale Ralph Davis’ commentary on Joshua, he points out that when Joshua asked God’s people to choose who they would serve, he gave them two choices. He told them to make the conservative choice of the gods of their ancestors before God chose Abraham or the progressive decision to worship the gods they found in the land God had given them.
One of the crazy realities about our faith is that we don’t choose the God of the Bible! When we choose a god, we always choose a conservative, traditional god who maintains the status quo. Or, we choose a progressive god who is into all our new ideas. There’s only one way we serve the God of the Bible…
In John 15:16, Jesus told his disciples:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide… (ESV)
We don’t cast our vote for Jesus. Our god always looks more like us. The god we choose likes our friends. He (or she) listens to our music. He votes for our candidates and supports our ideas and truth claims. Really, we never choose Jesus, but in his mercy, he chooses us. Then, everything changes.
It’s kind of weird, but if you have been chosen by Jesus, you don’t choose him. You just serve him. Your life becomes about the business of bearing fruit for Jesus and his kingdom. You realize he is what this is all about, and you make all you do about him. Paul described it this way:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)
You use your life — yes, your life in your physical body — to make the name of Christ great! Then, something crazy begins to happen: you see the greatness of Christ!
Are you chosen by God? Then, make Christ’s name great this week! Let what you believe about Jesus drive you to serve him. Let the everyday tasks that could feel like a grind be about Jesus’ greatness! Let your relationships demonstrate his love — especially for the unlovable. Because Jesus has brought God’s mercy, remind yourself with every breath who that breath is for, and spend that breath for the greatness of Jesus’ name. And, make disciples. Help the people around you follow Jesus. Encourage other believers around you to keep following and serving Christ. And, offer eternal life to someone who has not believed in Jesus yet.
If God has chosen you, look for ways to answer the question, “How have you seen the greatness of Christ this week?” I promise you won’t be disappointed!
One of the most important take-aways from the Christmas story in the gospel of Luke is that yes, what you believe matters.
This past Sunday, I finished up my Christmas series from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2. There in my church with very few people over the age of 45 and a rock band, I got to teach about the hypostatic union. Wait! Don’t leave! This is important!
Don’t worry, we’re not going too far into the theological weeds, but the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology describes the Hypostatic Union this way:
In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man.
I taught about Jesus’ trip at the temple at age 12. In that story, we see that from the time Jesus was a boy, he knew his place with his heavenly Father.
After a trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus’ family headed home to Nazareth. At the end of their first day of travel, they realized Jesus was missing. Luke describes three days (Yes, parents, THREE DAYS!) of searching before they found Jesus. He was in the temple.
When Mary and Joseph found Jesus, Mary asked him how he could do this to them! Jesus’ simple reply was:
“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV)
Pretty simple question, right? But, it has HUGE implications. From twelve years old, Jesus understood who his Father is. In his question, Jesus implied that he understood his deity — he understood himself to be God!
Even though Jesus was not considered an adult at twelve years old, his family was devout enough he would have understood that to claim God to be his Father was a claim that he, himself, is God. In John 5:17-18, John writes about Jesus:
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (ESV)
One of the misunderstandings many people have about Jesus is that he didn’t become God or understand his God-ness until much later in life. (Most people point to his baptism when God spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.) I recently saw a cable program — sorry, I can’t remember what show or network — where John the Baptist had to talk Jesus into believing he was the Christ at his baptism.
Instead, we see here in Luke 2 that Jesus knew who his Father is and, subsequently, his own God-ness nearly eighteen years before his baptism. We also see in Luke 2 that his God-ness is not simply an idea his parents had taught him along the way. Jesus’ understanding amazed everyone as he was being taught in the temple. (Yes, the religious leaders taught him.)
For a long time, I believed Jesus was teaching the religious leaders in the temple. However, Luke very clearly described the religious leaders teaching and Jesus listening and asking questions. Jesus learned from the religious leaders. Just a few verses later Luke wrapped up the second chapter of his gospel by writing:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52 ESV)
Jesus learned. Jesus grew up. Jesus’ life displayed not only his God-ness but his human-ness as well. So, it’s also important for us to understand Jesus’ humanity. He experienced everything we experience. Jesus felt, hurt, laughed and loved. He understood what if felt like to bring his parents joy as well as frustration. With the exception of sin, Jesus lived as we live. That’s why the writer of Hebrews could write about him:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
Then, of course, he died. I don’t know about you, but dying kind of scares me to death. When I think about exhaling my last breath, I get a little weak in the knees. Jesus knows that feeling. But, he also knows the feeling of what comes next. After Jesus died like we will all die, he experienced resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote about Jesus’ resurrection. He told us that because Jesus rose, everyone who trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection will share in his resurrection:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? …But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20 ESV)
So, believers, Jesus understands you. He feels what you are feeling. He knows what dreams and fears feel like. Jesus even knows what it feels like to draw his last breath. He also knows what it will feel like to draw the next resurrected breath.
We serve an incredible God. He came to earth and became human — while remaining completely God — for us. He understands our humanity. And, when we trust in him, we share in the victory his death purchased for us. We receive the gift of eternal life by believing he died on the cross in our place and rose from the grave. Then, we follow him who purchased salvation for us.
So, yes, what you believe matters!
If you are ready to trust in Jesus, send me a note. I would love to talk with you about it!